Saturday, 20 February 2016

Curtis Brown Discovery Day 2016 - Part 4

Today I welcome author Elaine Everest to give us a few tips and share her experiences of Curtis Brown Creative’s Discovery Days.

I’ve attended two Discovery Days and have nothing but praise for the literary agents taking part and the organisational skills of the Foyles staff. With hundreds of wannabe novelists queuing to be ‘discovered’ we were treated courteously and efficiently.

The CBC website explains how we are to prepare for the big day and what to take with us. I recall the panic I felt when attending for the first time – pitch about myself and my book in thirty seconds? What should I tell this unknown agent I was about to meet? I’d worked as a writer for some time, although not having sold a novel. Should I mention my short stories, competition wins, anthology contributions, journalism, CW tutoring or perhaps my non-fiction work? My first thought was it would look as though I was showing off when, like many writers, it was just an accumulation of many year’s writing as I struggled to become a novelist.

My husband suggested I write out everything I wished to say and then he would time me as I read my words aloud. Hmm six minutes. Whatever could I cut? After lots of editing and speaking faster I trimmed it to two minutes. There was seventy five percent more to remove. The answer was simply to say I had been a writer for a number of years but had not yet seen a novel published. If the agent was interested in my writing life they would ask – they did.

Next I looked at the first page of my submission. It stopped midway through a paragraph. I rejigged the page so it not only told the story much better but ended on a mini cliffhanger. Leave ‘em wanting to know what happened next is something I’ve often told my students. I (very craftily) printed off a copy of my synopsis and would try to hand that over, if the agent was at all interested.

Come the day I joined a queue that snaked through Foyles Bookshop until I reached a closed door and a young lady holding a clipboard. She checked off my name and, after peering through a crack in the door, told me to go to a table that had just been vacated by a worried looking writer. Trotting over to the table with my Romcom in my sweaty hand I introduced myself to the agent and started to pitch. It was easy. I just read through the page confident that I’d done my best to give the right information. After that my hopes were dashed when the agent pointed out she only represented literary fiction – oh dear! Then she read my first page and smiled. She liked the title and said how she could sell a book on a title alone. She suggested I submit the whole book.

The rest of the day was spent in small groups chatting with agents followed by a talk by senior agents and published authors. Was I ‘snatched up as the next bright star in the publishing world?’ No, but the experience of talking to agents and gleaning information was invaluable.

My second experience of a Discovery Day was slightly different in that my pitch was to an agent from Conville and Walsh. I changed the book I wished to pitch the night before the event and wrote the one page at midnight. It paid off as the agent chatted about dogs – she loved them – and wanted to see the whole novel once it was written. Did I write that book and submit it? Sadly no but only because a couple of months later I won a novel writing competition and had my publishing contract. Time moved on and today I have an agent and a two book contract with Pan Macmillan to write sagas. My first book with them, The Woolworths Girls, is to be published in early May.

What would I advise unpublished novelists who were lucky to obtain an appointment this year? Smile and stay positive. Prepare your first page and thirty second pitch to the best of your ability and don’t expect to be signed up – it doesn’t happen at these kinds of events. I’ve seen disappointed people sitting in the Foyles cafĂ© who had built up such great expectations that after their pitch they had crashed to the depth of despair as they had not been signed up with the agency.

Enjoy your day, I wish I could be there and join in. The journey to being a published author is a interesting path to follow. You are making memories that will be looked back on with fondness.

Elaine Everest


Elaine’s Amazon author page
Twitter: @elaineeverest 

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Curtis Brown Discovery Day 2016 - Part 3

You may have picked up from the underlying trend in my blog posts that I am a worrier. It doesn’t matter what it is, I will worry about it. The more important something is, or the more eager I am, the more I worry about it.

As you can imagine I’m therefore doing rather a lot of worrying about the upcoming Discovery Day.

There are two things that concern me.  Ok so there are actually more than that, but I figure you haven’t got all day:

1, When I’m nervous I tend to babble. 

I fill any momentary silence with chatter. I go off on a tangent and ramble. This is all in spite of the little voice in my head telling me to shut up. I don’t.

2, When I’m nervous I talk quickly. 

It’s actually quite impressive how fast I can talk. Think back to the 90’s sitcom Blossom.  Remember Blossom’s best friend Six? The really chatty one who talks too fast. Yep, that’s the one. See my problem?

The pitch sessions are only 6 minutes which really doesn’t seem all that long. However, it’s amazing how much babbling you can do in that time when you talk at super speed.

As a result I’m reciting my pre-prepared pitch every chance I get and to anyone who’ll listen (sorry folks). So far it’s going well and has resulted in countless offers of representation. It’s just a shame that none of these offers come from people who actually work in the publishing industry.

Realistically I know that this isn’t going to happen. Six minutes, no matter how long it feels, isn’t long enough for an agent to make such a huge decision as offering representation.  My original aims for the day were to get feedback to help make me a better writer and to learn a little about the publishing world.  As the day gets closer though I have revised my aims. Now my hope is to simply avoid making a bad impression. Anything beyond that would be an added bonus.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Curtis Brown Discovery Day 2016 - Part 2

Today I welcome Julie Stock, author of From Here To Nashville, to tell us a little about her hopes for the Discovery Day.

Luckily for me, my daughter is a member of Foyles' loyalty scheme and she was the one who told me about their Discovery Day. I signed up straight away before I could change my mind!

I have never pitched to an agent before and so I'm hoping that it will be good practice for me to prepare a pitch and to deliver it to a real-life agent without actually collapsing in a heap. I'm looking forward to being able to discuss my book with them for a few minutes afterwards as well and to see what their advice is about where to take my career from here.

I have been sending this new novel out to agents for a while now with some interest but no actual developments and so I have already prepared a query that seems to work quite well. I think I will use this to help me prepare my 30 second pitch and then I'll practise it and time it to make sure it's not too long.

Elaine Everest's advice about seeing it as an opportunity to practise in front of an agent rather than a guarantee of representation has been really helpful for me and I think it will calm my nerves to think of it this way so the pressure is off a bit.

As a self-published author for my debut novel, I have decided to seek an agent this time round because I'd like guidance on how to progress to the next level. I am very nervous about pitching but won't be nervous about asking questions in the panel session afterwards. I really want to know their thoughts on what it would take for them to represent a self-published author or whether that even matters.

Book and Links

My debut novel, From Here to Nashville, was self-published nearly a year ago. It is available on Amazon and on iBooks.

Author Bio

Julie Stock is an author of contemporary romance novels, novellas and short stories. She's also a proud member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme and a Member of The Alliance of Independent Authors.

She blogs about her path to publication on her website, ‘My Writing Life’

You can also connect with her on Twitter, Goodreads and via her Facebook Author Page.

If you would like to be the first to hear about her new releases and other news, you can also sign up to receive her occasional newsletters via her website.

When she is not writing, she runs her own small business as a proofreader, tutor and WordPress website designer/troubleshooter. She is married with two teenage daughters and lives with her family in Bedfordshire.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Curtis Brown Discovery Day 2016 - Part 1

I heard about the planned Curtis Brown Discovery Day back in December. I read the descriptions on their website with interest. A chance to meet an agent. A chance to get feedback. 

It sounded amazing.

It also sounded slightly terrifying.

I did a little research on past events and discovered, unsurprisingly, that tickets to this free event go fast. People travel miles for this opportunity. Not just from across the country, but from around the world.  If I wanted to be part of it, I was going to have to act fast.

I cleared my calendar for the 27th of February. I figured out my transportation method. Then I waited patiently for the tickets to be released. 

Well, maybe not patiently. That implies I sat back and waited for the arrival of an email or twitter notification to tell me to act. I didn’t. I couldn’t. It was too risky.  What if I missed it? What if I saw it hours after everyone else? The places would all be gone before I’d even applied.  Instead the Discovery Day website was added to my favourites and my screen was refreshed daily. Oh alright, hourly. I wasn’t taking any chances.

I sent my email request off for a ticket the day they were released. Despite this I knew my chances of getting a place were low given how many writers would be interested. I was therefore amazed when a few days later I received confirmation that I had a ticket.

I spent the rest of that day, and every day since, switching between being excited and terrified.

Over the coming weeks I will be preparing for my six minute pitch, sharing the information I’ve learnt about the event, hearing from writers who will be going to this year's Discovery Day as well those who’ve attended previous events and inviting you to suggest questions you’d ask an agent.

If you’d like to get involved please leave me a comment below or contact me on twitter @Elaina_James